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JOHN DEMPSTER: Cate Otanes’ journey into Christian faith from 'hardly relevant to life' to committed NHS chaplain

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Cate Otanes and her husband Keven.
Cate Otanes and her husband Keven.

Church was formal, austere, hardly relevant to life. That was Cate’s impression after her childhood attendance at a Catholic Church in her native Philippines.

But this was different, this group she was invited to by a friend in Inverness where her family had moved when she was a young teenager.

It met on a Friday evening, there were coloured lights, people were dancing. “Crazy!” Cate thought. “I’ll not be back.”

But then the pastor spoke about God’s unwavering love. The insight that Father God had created her and loved her, spoke into Cate’s sense of being a lost child, into her woundedness and longing for security.

That night marked the beginning of Cate Otanes’ journey into Christian faith as she resolved to let the love of God shape her life.

She found herself wanting to share this gospel – “God loves you! Jesus died for you!”

“I bring the message of hope everywhere I go,” she says, humbly but with certainty.

To understand more fully what had happened at that Friday night church, she studied at Highland Theological College and later in Edinburgh.

She and her husband Keven are now part of Merkinch Free Church, sharing God’s love with local people, some of whom struggle with complex problems and addictions, empathising with them, befriending them.

“What does the gospel offer young people?” I ask. “Identity,” she responds. She mentions people’s search for meaning and significance, and the various identities social media and consumerism thrust on us, which never seem to bring happiness.

“God is Father,” Cate’s message seems to be. “You are loved, you are God’s child. Knowing that love brings freedom to be the unique person you are, the person God dreams of.”

Cate is now working as an NHS chaplain at Raigmore Hospital. In this role, Cate’s task is to accompany patients and their families of all faiths and none as they face the challenge of ill-health and loss. She tells me how much she’s learning in her new role and the importance of being with people in time of need.

I think that before she says a word, people will discern in her face and in her presence something of the love of God made visible.

For Jesus travels incognito in the lives of those who say “yes” to his love.

Click here to read more from John Dempster.

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